LONDON: It was a wedding ceremony few would have predicted for a member of the British royal family — a blend of ancient English ritual and African-American culture, infusing the 1,000-year-old British monarchy with a blast of modernity.
Prince Harry and his actress bride Meghan Markle married on Saturday in a dazzling ceremony.
Inside the medieval chapel at Windsor Castle that 39 English kings and queens have called home since 1066, the sixth-in-line to the British throne and a middle-class American divorcee exchanged vows watched up close by royals and celebrities, and from afar by a global TV audience of many millions.
Wearing a veil, diamond tiara and a sleek dress with a long train, the bride was accompanied up the aisle of St. George’s Chapel by Harry’s father, Prince Charles, before they were proclaimed husband and wife.
The couple kissed on the steps of the 15th-century chapel, before delighting the sea of well-wishers, some of whom had camped for days to witness the spectacular show of British pomp and pageantry, by touring Windsor in a horse-drawn carriage.
The union of Harry, 33, a former royal wild child, and 36-year-old Meghan, whose mother is African-American and father is white, was like no other the royal family has seen.
“We can break the barriers down, it can be done,” said 40-year-old black Briton Yvonne Emanuel, one of the 100,000-strong crowd that thronged Windsor’s streets.
The service was conducted by the Dean of Windsor while Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared the couple man and wife, beneath the banners of the knights of the Order of the Garter, the world’s oldest chivalric group dating back to 1348.
The newlyweds will be officially known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex after Queen Elizabeth bestowed the titles on them.
But throughout the wedding, there were significant breaks with tradition, in particular when US Episcopalian bishop Michael Bruce Curry delivered a passionate sermon that was a far cry from the sober tones of the Church of England.
“There’s power in love,” he boomed at a congregation that included celebrities Oprah Winfrey, Amal and George Clooney, and David Beckham.
“Do not underestimate it. Anyone who has ever fallen in love knows what I mean,” said Curry in an energetic address that quoted Martin Luther King.
African-American Karen Long, who was among the crowds in Windsor, was one of those who appreciated the bishop’s fiery address.
“It was a moment for African-Americans,” said Long, who had come from Houston, Texas, with her sister and a group of friends, all dressed as bridesmaids. “The idea that Harry allowed that and acknowledged it — it was the perfect blend between her culture and the royal culture.”
As well as traditional Church of England anthems and delicate English choral music, the ceremony also featured a gospel choir singing “Stand by Me,” the 1960s hit by American soul singer Ben E. King.
Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, 61, accompanied her daughter to the chapel in a vintage Rolls-Royce and shed tears of emotion at several points during the ceremony.
Meghan entered the chapel unescorted, offering TV viewers and the congregation a first good look at her hotly anticipated wedding dress, created by British designer Clare Waight Keller, of the French fashion house Givenchy.
Harry, looking nervous, appeared to say: “Thanks Pa” to his father, and “You look amazing” to his beaming bride.
In further breaks with tradition, Markle, 36, did not vow to obey her husband; while Harry, who is three years her junior, wore a wedding ring — unlike other senior male royals such as his older brother Prince William.